SHETLANDERS requiring special equipment to live independently at home have had their lives revolutionised by the opening of the new £3 million Independent Living Centre in Lerwick on Wednesday.
The purpose-built grey building at Gremista will be the base for 41 occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and care at home staff.
It also marks a high point in the growing working relationship between NHS Shetland and Shetland Islands Council.
Most importantly it provides a place for around 2,000 people in the isles who require specialised equipment to remain in their own home, ranging from light switches to walking aids.
The building serves as a one-stop-shop for information and equipment, allowing people to try out adaptations and equipment and have them customised to meet their needs.
It will also become the new base for NHS clinics for wheelchair users and a training centre for handling and moving techniques, currently handled on the Scottish mainland.
Some users say they have been waiting for decades for the facility to arrive, and feel fortunate to have seen it materialise during the era of public spending cuts.
The centre was designed by local architects Redman+Sutherland and delivered on budget by local contractors DITT, after another Shetland firm, MK Leslie, had prepared the site.
The SIC’s capital programmes service provided the project manager, the quantity surveyor, the construction design and management co-ordinator and the clerk of works.
Mott MacDonald were the structural engineers and Cameron Chisholm Dawson Partnership (CCDP) were the electrical and mechanical engineers.
It was due to be opened by Scottish finance secretary John Swinney who was unable to make the afternoon ceremony after being fog bound in Edinburgh.
His place was taken by minister for parliamentary business Joe Fitzpatrick, who was already in Shetland for this week’s Scottish cabinet meeting.
However in a prepared statement Swinney said it was an “outstanding example” of what could be achieved when local authorities and health boards work together.
SIC social services chairman Cecil Smith said he was proud to have a completed building after so many years of waiting.
“We are now able to offer the delivery of therapy services for specialist needs from one building and where clients can see at first hand all the equipment that is available to assist them and allow them to remain in their own homes,” he said.
Smith reserved special thanks to occupational therapy manager Jo Robinson who managed the project on behalf of both the NHS and the council.
NHS Shetland chairman Ian Kinniburgh said the centre represented the culmination of many years of joint work and a shared ambition to provide a common access point for the users of therapy services.
“I am particularly excited by the equipment resource showroom which will allow folk to try out new equipment in a safe environment and help support them to remain at home longer or to return home with confidence after a period of illness,” he said.
“This is an excellent example of how integrated working can provide benefits to vulnerable people in our community.”
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